Eating, drinking and maintenance of community: Jewish dietary laws and their effects on separateness

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter examines the food consumption practices of Jews with an emphasis on Jewish dietary laws and their effects on Jewish community and separation. One of the consequences of any successful religion is that it eventually becomes institutionalized, for without institutionalized rules and regulations it becomes difficult to hold its adherents together. Whereas some religious beliefs and practices are active on a personal level, others are designed to create community, segregating members of one religion from others. Food has had a significant role in religious practice and observance throughout history and food consumption has traditionally been a sure way of separating Jews from others. In the period before the Enlightenment, these proved reasonably efficient in achieving their goals, especially the preservation of Jewish peoplehood. More often than not, the effects of food on religious practice have been negative rather than positive because food and food consumption are efficient media for enhancing the perception of difference between groups and members of these groups. When translated into religious injunctions rather than just cultural differences, practices relating to which foods are proper for consumption and which are inappropriate and customs regarding the care and attention devoted to the preparation of food and food taboos become powerful elements in distinguishing Jews from other religions. However, the emergence of different customs in diverse Jewish communities and the institutionalization designed to safeguard observant Jews from consuming prohibited food highlight differences among Jews themselves, a feature further emphasized by the secularization of many Jews in modern societies and the widening gaps between observant Jews and others.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Changing World Religion Map
Subtitle of host publicationSacred Places, Identities, Practices and Politics
PublisherSpringer Netherlands
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9789401793766
ISBN (Print)9789401793759
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015.


  • Food
  • Jews
  • Kashrut
  • Kosher
  • Religion
  • Shechitah

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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